The plant based nurse

My family's excellent adventure to better health!

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Engine 2 Immersions: Enrich, enjoy, and get your discount here!

Whether you’ve been eating a plant-based diet for years or you’re just plant curious, an Engine 2 Immersion could be just the place for you! I just returned from a magical weekend at The Esselstyn family farm in the Hudson Valley in NY at a 2Forks Event produced by Engine 2 and Forks over Knives. We heard incredible speakers with invaluable information about the why and how plant-based eating prevents and reverses disease. We heard inspiring stories of recovery and self discovery from illness and addiction and met athletes who have achieved incredible goals, all with the power of plants.

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If hearing from and rubbing elbows with the plant-based experts and celebrities isn’t enough to entice you, think for a moment about the delicious plant-based food you will enjoy without having to ask what’s in it or if they can make you a special dish without oil.


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For most of us, just knowing all the right information isn’t enough. A 2Forks Immersion will also give you the practical tools you need to continue your plant-based adventure after you leave. With cooking demonstrations and talks that will give you insight into why it’s so hard to do the right thing for your health since the wrong thing feels so right, you will head for home empowered to make good choices and take your health into your own hands, or should I say your own fork!

Perhaps best of all, you will spend time making new friends and maybe even catching up with other plant-based friends you have met on social media. I find it fascinating to meet the real people behind the online personas and meet people from all around the country and the world. The experts will graciously sign your books, answer your questions, and sometimes even sit with you to listen to the other speakers.

You will leave tired but inspired, educated, and nourished.

You still have two weekend opportunities for fun with Engine 2 and Forks over Knives  this year and one coming up next spring!


September 30th – October 2nd 2016


October 28th – October 30th 2016


March 24th –March 26th 2017.

$50 Off Full Weekend Pass using code: BEETS50

2Forks Immersion – Seven Day Retreat 

Mago Retreat Center in Sedona, Arizona

October 3rd-9th 2016

Not only will 2Forks provide incredible plant-based meals to fuel you, but you’ll also experience a full menu of activities: hands-on cooking demos, yoga, hiking on one of the country’s “Top 10 Most Scenic Trails,” a stargazing party, bonfires, live music, plus a few other surprises.

$150 Off Immersion using code: BEETS150 

Visit .com to Register Today!

And remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!







Cooking all day without cooking ALL day!

A couple of weekends ago, I decided that in addition to cleaning out the basement to get ready for the waterproofing company, I was going to cook for my husband and I all day Saturday since we were both going to be home all day for the first time in a long time. Breakfast is tricky since I usually eat the same thing every day, oatmeal with bananas, blueberries, and raisins and my husband is not a fan. He usually has a sprouted grains bagel. So the challenge was to make something totally different. I was also participating in a challenge on that was called Camp E2X. One of the assignments was to make a recipe from “My Beef with Meat” that I had never made before, so it was off to the breakfast section of Rip’s book. It turned out I had all of the ingredients for the Spicy Bouldin Scrambler. Perfect! This harkened back to the old days when we would have omelets on the weekends.

It was a pretty easy and quick recipe. I just had a couple of things to chop, some onions, jalapeño, garlic and some tomatoes to add on top.


While the tofu was draining, I got some diced potatoes out of the freezer, added some extra peppers and garlic powder and popped them into the toaster oven.


After I pressed and drained the tofu, I mixed the nutritional yeast with herbs and spices to coat the tofu.


I thought it was a little too much yeast, but I carried on and enjoyed the aroma of the spices and fresh garlic. The scramble was easy to heat in a nonstick pan and before you know it we had a breakfast fit for a queen!

scramber plate

It did turn out we could have enjoyed the scramble with a lot less nutritional yeast but I was glad I tried something new and will adjust the recipe next time.

I spent the day in between meals going to the local farmers market and giving away and selling things we will never use again, like an ice cream maker and a turkey fryer! We never did fry any turkeys but used to use it for large batches of wings. Now we eat cauliflower wings!

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turkey fryerIce cream maker

Before I knew it, it was time to make some lunch. I looked around and I had some whole wheat pasta, some red ripe tomatoes from the farmers market and some broccoli and broccoli greens in the garden just waiting to be picked! I sautéed some onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes in a little veggie broth, added some fresh chopped tomatoes and oregano and then a can of crushed tomatoes. If you like fresh basil, add it at the end for a great fresh flavor.

tomatoes and onions lunch sauce luch

I chopped up the broccoli and greens and added them to the pasta water the last minute or two of cooking.

broccoli lunch pasta with broccoli

This whole lunch took no time at all and it was satisfying and delicious.

Lunch bowlMy husband told me not to bother cooking supper since I made such a big lunch and we could have leftovers but I was determined to make 3 different meals so we would have leftovers during the week. We love Indian cuisine and I made one of our favorite recipes from “The Starch Solution,” Festive Dal Soup. It was super easy in my Instant Pot. All the ingredients go in and I simmer it on the slow cook setting, et voilà, fabulous supper in less than an hour served over basmati brown rice. We love spicy dishes so I always add extra chili paste in the dish and at the table. I also added some curry powder this time.  For the greens I used broccoli greens, what else!


I cooked all day, but spent very little time in the kitchen and we had 3 great nutritious meals plus leftovers for lunches or dinners during the week. I also had a nice surprise from my neighbor Charlie. He was afraid this unusual bird was going to be thrown away and he thought I would like it, so he brought it over to my picnic table. It was a bright spot in a busy day and this little bird really is growing on me!


Just a closing thought. Cooking plant based foods is SO much more than just nourishing and healing our body and soul but can also help to heal our planet. This mug we received with our last spice order from Penzey’s is a great reminder when I need a push to get in the kitchen,

“Heal the world… cook dinner tonight”

Heal the world cook dinner tonight

Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!

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Ready to rock plant steady? Educate, immerse, and enjoy!

You’ve tried out a plant based diet and decided it’s for you, but you feel like you still have so much to learn! You may feel like you need to learn everything you can as fast as you can. That excitement will help you maintain your new lifestyle, but don’t wear yourself out. There is so much information and it can be confusing at times. Is coconut oil good for you or evil? Should you eat nuts or avoid them like the plague?

I think one of the most important things in educating yourself about healthy plant based eating is to consider the source. Don’t trust the latest news in the newspaper or the nightly news until you check it out. Often these highly lauded announcements that “research says” are often poorly designed studies funded by the food industry. I don’t have time to evaluate each study for its own merit, so I look to reputable people I trust like Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. John McDougall to help me evaluate the latest nutrition information. My first year eating a plant based diet, I bought some wonderful books that have helped me in my quest to learn all I can. Some of my favorites are “The China Study,” “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease,” My Beef with Meat,” and “The Starch Solution.” There’s no hype in these books, just good solid science and I also appreciate that many of the books contain wonderful recipes. After all, if you’re going to recommend that people change their diet, they need tools to help them with the “how.” pb books I also found a lot of wonderful educational videos by the authors of these books to augment and reinforce what I was learning in the books. Lectures by Dr Esselstyn, Dr. Campbell, Dr Barnard, and Dr. McDougall can be easily found with a quick google search. Some of them even have YouTube channels. Not only are these knowledgeable experts well versed on their topics, but it is a joy to hear them speak. Their passion for healthy living shines through. They make the information understandable, interesting, and yes, even entertaining! Here is one of my favorite videos from Rip Esselstyn:

The last thing we did to immerse ourselves in our new lifestyle was to attend educational retreats. My husband was having some trouble completely getting on board with our new lifestyle. He had worked as a chef and wasn’t quite sure about how to cook without his old ingredients. When I told him about Dr. McDougall’s 10 day program, I was very happy and surprised when he expressed interest. The program turned out be very cost effective even though I was worried at first it might be too expensive. After learning the tools he needed to succeed on a plant based diet, he was able to eliminate 9 of his 10 oral meds and greatly reduce his insulin doses which saved us a ton of money and more importantly improved his health. During the 10 days, he attended lectures about the science behind plant based eating and health, went to the grocery store to learn how to read labels, attended cooking demonstrations by plant based chefs, met Jeff Novick, Registered dietitian and Grateful Dead fan and even went out to eat with the McDougalls to learn how to order healthy plant based dishes without oil. There were also opportunities to participate in exercise sessions and yoga. He didn’t suffer too much at this program since it was held at a very nice resort in Santa Rosa, CA. They had wonderful feasts at every meal and were encouraged to take leftovers to their rooms in case they got hungry. He also got to hike in a redwood forest and looking back at his photo with the redwood tree, I hardly recognize this man from 2013!

June 2013

June 2013

April 2014

April 2014

The same summer Scott attended the 10 day McDougall program, I decided I would go to an event called Plantstock in Claverack NY at the Esselstyn farm. I had been involved with the Engine 2 program and this weekend long retreat was being lauded by the folks on, as a magical weekend of fun and learning. I found a friend from engine2extra to share a room with at a local motor lodge and it really was magical and fun! We heard speakers like Dr. Esselstyn, T. Colin Campbell, Rip Esselstyn, Jane and Ann Esselstyn, Doug Lisle and more! I met so many wonderful people who had transformed their lives with plant based eating and all outdoors under a giant tent right on the lawn of the farmhouse. I enjoyed it so much that my husband decided to join me for Plantstock 2014 and it happened to fall on our anniversary. It was a great way to celebrate! There are several Engine 2 retreat weekends held throughout the year around the country and even a week long event in Sedona Arizona and the dates for 2015 should be announced soon! Here are some highlights from the last 2 years.

Lisa and I Plantstock friends dr essey tables at plantstock

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So, do you have to spend a lot of money on books and retreats and cute t-shirts to immerse yourself in the plant strong lifestyle? Absolutely not! Dr McDougall has his entire plan on his web site for free with tons of great recipes and Engine 2 is starting a Nationwide 28 day challenge in 2 days on January 12th and you can download all the information you need for free, including a free ebook with guidelines, recipes, gorgeous photos and even exercises to help you dive into a plantstrong lifestyle!

Soak in all the plant based information you can, decide you CAN do this  and rock steady!!


Lemon garlic hummus with roasted yellow bell pepper and my first cooking video!

I like to make hummus on Sunday afternoon when I get home from church to have for lunch and so I have leftovers for snacks and lunches during the week. I especially love it when we have fresh tomatoes in the garden so I can make hummus sandwiches with fresh greens, tomatoes, and whole grain mustard. Hummus is filling and nutritious and you can use it for so many dishes. For example, if you like 3-2-1 dressing (3 TBS balsamic, 2 TBS mustard, 1 TBS maple syrup), but you want to change it up and give it some more texture and creaminess, just add a little hummus! It’s great on grilled Portobello mushroom, as a snack with raw veggies or in a wrap with a tortilla or a romaine or collard leaf.

Hummus is a great way to add beans to your diet, especially if you’re new to this way of eating and not so sure about eating whole beans yet. I remember before we started eating this way and I used to groan a little inside when my husband would make a dish with beans. Now I LOVE all kinds of beans. They are a great source of plant protein, will help you feel full, are rich in phytonutrients and can help you lower your blood pressure, lose weight, lower your cholesterol and may even be protective against cancer according to Michael Greer, MD from So eat your beans! Have some hummus, rice and beans, bean tortillas, bean dip, veggie and bean soup, bean salad, or whatever you like.

Today, on a whim, I decided to try to make a video about making hummus. The lighting wasn’t perfect and I had some technical difficulties, but it was fun and I hope you enjoy it!


Meet Bonnie, my plant based wonder sister!

I’m excited to share my sister Bonnie’s story with you. She is a real success, not just because she has done a great job incorporating delicious plant based foods into her life and that of her family, but because she is a success as a loving and giving human being.

Bonnie and I were separated when I was five months old. Our mother, Ruth who was very ill when I was born, died of cancer and our father couldn’t work and take care of four children and an infant.

Ruth Hastie

Ruth Hastie, 1923-1962

My father’s brother, Gilbert and his wife, Mary came to Michigan to bring me back to Pennsylvania to care for me. Over a year later, the family returned to Pennsylvania with the plan to reunite. I have been told that my Aunt who had been raising me as her own could not bear to give me up and my father let me stay with the understanding that I would not be adopted. I would also be told about my family and would visit my brothers and sisters. As we grew up, we visited occasionally, but Bonnie and I never had the opportunity to really know each other as sisters.

While in nursing school in 1984, I was caring for two patients with melanoma and studying about this deadly form of skin cancer. I thought I was being a hypochondriac when I noticed a mole on my upper back that looked darker than I remembered. I went to speak to my nursing instructor to calm my fears. Instead, she told me to march right over to the dermatology clinic after she showed me her scar from a melanoma excision. After I received word that my mole was melanoma, I called my birth mother’s oldest sister Jeanette to see what kind of cancer my mother had. She told me my mother had melanoma and that she had also had one. Soon after, I went to visit my sister Bonnie and her husband Craig and asked her if she had any moles that had changed. She lifted her shirt and showed me a large mole on her chest and I remember being very upset as it looked like one I had seen in a textbook. It was shaped like a butterfly, had irregular edges, and was not uniform in color. She told me she had been watching it and thought it was fine. I urged her to please get it checked and left hoping she would. I also found out she had our mother’s death certificate which showed that the melanoma on her leg had spread to her brain and liver.

Months later, Bonnie finally went to have her mole checked and unfortunately, it was also a melanoma. We were both fortunate that we caught these lesions before they spread to our lymph nodes or organs and since that time, we have each had a total of 6 melanomas. We also discovered that there have been 14 other family members with melanoma. We learned that in about 10% of melanomas, there is a genetic component and that in our case, we had a dominant gene which means our children have a 50/50 chance of having melanoma.

Bonnie and I kept in touch while I was away at nursing school and then when I married and moved away for 4 years, but when I moved back home when my son was 18 months old, we finally were able to get to know one another better and be sisters. Bonnie helped watch my kids when my husband and I had to work on weekends and her youngest daughter and my daughter spent a lot of time growing up together and loving one another like sisters and fighting like sisters too. We worked with the youth of our church and church conference together and went on church youth retreats together. Bonnie is a woman of tireless energy, from making her own wedding gown to working her way through junior college, then earning her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree while raising a family and working full time. She continues to work long hours at a major financial corporation managing things I don’t understand and compassionately managing many employees.

Bonnie and Craig

Bonnie and Craig

Bonnie has always been health conscious and I don’t ever remember her ever being overweight. She has been cooking without oil for quite some time to reduce fat in her family’s diet and she used to go to aerobics after work to stay active. We had a terrible scare a few years ago when she had to have a hysterectomy for a very large benign ovarian growth. I will never forget the phone call from my brother in law that she had to be taken back to the operating room after surgery for hemorrhaging. After a second surgery and 4 units of blood, she was very weak and took quite some time to gain her strength back from this “routine” surgery. She scared us again a couple of years ago when she developed neurologic symptoms and had to be hospitalized. She has been diagnosed with autoimmune illness, most likely lupus and possibly Lyme disease also as she has had multiple tick bites. It has been very hard to see the healthiest one in the family have all of these problems.

After I watched Forks over Knives and told Bonnie about my newfound excitement about plant based eating, I think she thought I had lost my mind. Her daughters Danielle and Erica were already vegetarian and she was not convinced this was a healthy way to eat. She had always been thin, but had gained some weight that we were attributing to the medication she was on for lupus. When she saw our family losing weight, she decided to try it out and her oldest daughter Amanda joined her in trying some recipes. I remember being surprised when she texted me to say she was going to the store to buy “rabbit food” and wanted to know what to do with this kale stuff.

Before I knew it, Bonnie was making up her own recipes, especially delicious veggie soups like creamy potato soup and hearty veggie stew. The weight quickly melted off and her pants were soon falling down! Her daughter Amanda also lost the last of her baby weight from her second pregnancy and her sons love all sorts of veggies and tell us their favorite meal is salad! She gives them wonderfully healthy meals and snacks and she proves that kids will eat what you teach them to eat and if you keep offering them healthy food, they will learn to love it. Bonnie is the best grandma ever and the boys call her “Bon Bon” since she looks and acts way too young to be called Grandma. She has a heart of gold and will help anyone in need if she can. She visits the patients at our local state hospital for those with mental illness with a group at our church, has taken in family members and friends to stay in her home when there was a need and helps with no judgment or expectation of anything in return. She is also a star volunteer at our yearly mission trip to Appalachia to repair homes to make them warmer, drier, and safer. She can work a drill and a hammer as well as she can run a sewing machine.

Bonnie and I in Appalachia doing home repairs

Bonnie and I in Appalachia

Plant based eating has not eliminated all of my sister’s health challenges, but we both feel that since we have outlived our mother and are still here in our 50s, maybe we need to do whatever we can to be as healthy and independent as we can for as long as we can. We also have hope because of the work of people like Dean Ornish MD and T. Colin Campbell that our genes are not our destiny. We once felt resigned to the fact that we would die an early death from the cancer that took our mother and now we have hope that we may be fortunate enough to live a normal lifespan and enjoy watching our children grow into wonderful adults and even enjoy grandchildren. I’m so glad she joined us in this journey!

Bon Bon, Amanda, Dylan and Devin

Bon Bon, Amanda, Dylan and Devin

Bonnie's family

Four generations


Plant determined? Step back and check your numbers!

You’re ready to start an exciting adventure to improve your health through plant based nutrition. Step back for a moment and get a grip on where you stand with your health and check some markers to see where you are before you begin.

You may want to have a checkup with your primary care health provider before you begin if you haven’t had an exam in a while. Have your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight checked and I like to ask for copies of my results. If you are up to date on your health exams and just want an updated number, you can pick up a home cholesterol kit at the pharmacy. If you have elevated blood pressure, you may want to purchase an automatic blood pressure cuff to self-monitor. As your weight and blood pressure improve as your diet improves, you may need to work with your healthcare provider to adjust medications. It can be dangerous to adjust doses on your own, so always consult with your primary care practitioner. For diabetics, it is important to watch blood sugars closely as you may also need dose adjustments in insulin or oral diabetic medications as your numbers improve. The American Heart Association has some good information about target values for these markers. Dr Caldwell Esselstyn goes further than the AHA by recommending getting cholesterol below 150 along with eating a healthy oil free plant based diet to make you heart attack proof!

Some recommend speaking with your healthcare provider about changing your diet before you start, and some like Dr. Esselstyn recommend just mentioning that you will be trying to eat a more healthy diet and you would like their assistance in monitoring your progress. Many people are so excited, that they want to find an MD who is well versed in plant based nutrition and as excited as they are about their new diet. Unfortunately, this is not realistic for many of us as most doctors have few courses in nutrition in medical school and even less background about plant based nutrition. My husband and I both told our physicians we were embarking on this path and they were supportive and told us to go for it.

It is not our job to educate our physician or provider but they may ask about how you achieved your fabulous results which will give you an opportunity for discussion. Of course, since I have to share my excitement with everyone, I gave my doctor a list of resources and at my last visit, gave her a signed copy of Dr. Esselstyn’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and a copy of his latest study, “A way to reverse CAD?” She probably thinks I’m out of my mind, but if I can help her or any of her patients, it’s worth it. My husband’s doctor wanted to know where this program was that he attended so she could tell her patients about it since he is doing so much better than he has in years. Last June he attended a 10 day program by Dr. John McDougall to help him learn more and get on board with this way of eating.

I was already taking a B12 supplement before I even thought about eating a plant based diet, because on my meat laden diet I was running a borderline low B12 level, but if you don’t know your level, you may want to have it checked, especially if you’re over 50. You can ask your provider what dose of B12 they recommend for someone on a plant based diet. My physician gave me pretty much the same advice offered by Dr. Neal Barnard in this brief video.

If you are super organized, or yearn to be, you may want to organize your health history and your lab and diagnostic study results so you can track how you’re progressing toward your goals. I recently met a fellow nurse at a Holistic health fair, Judy Rienzi, who has developed tools to help people better track and manage their health. She has developed the Connect method to help people organize, guide, and plan for success. I love that she uses the phrase plan for success! We plan for all sorts of things, retirement, vacations, and we even plan for our death by buying life insurance. Why don’t we plan for success in getting healthy?!

Let’s make a plan!

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Day 21, Engine 2 Fall 2014 28 day challenge, Plant based partners and some family time.

Today after church it was nice to see my son and his girlfriend before they had to return to Phila even if it was only for a short time. I had plans to accomplish SO much in the 4 hrs I had before going to a pot luck tonight, but all I managed was grocery shopping, and making kale bruschetta and black rice salad while spending some time with my lovely plant based daughter, AND making a huge mess in the kitchen once again. Tomorrow is another day…

Tonight I went to a P-BEG (Plant based eating group) pot luck in Tunkhannock and enjoyed a nice visit with my partner in plant based crime, Virginia Fennelly and got to chat with two new folks I had not had the pleasure of getting to know before. We had a lovely dinner and went home very full and satisfied!

Virginia has been very supportive of our Engine 2 challenge group and has been busy inviting new people to try plant based eating with us. Our approaches are different but we agree it is important to get the word out to the world that plant based nutrition can promote better health and prevent and reverse many disease states. I’m glad we met and hope we can do some exciting things in the future. She is planning an all day Natural Health Clinic with a colleague on November 8th and the unique thing about this fair is that it is free not only for participants but for the speakers and members. I have been asked to speak and will also have a table to share info about plant based eating.I hope I can present my information in a way that is accurate and makes plant based eating attractive and manageable. If you live in our area and would like to come, check out the flier below!

PBEG plate

Virginia and Jean

Health Fair Tunkhannock

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Day 20, Engine 2 Fall 2014 28 day challenge, Good food, good friends, and my family rocks!

What a great day! It started with breakfast with my son and his sweet girlfriend Katie. We had Happy Herbivore blueberry pancakes and fruit salad. It was great to spend some time with the kids this morning before they went to the wedding of an old high school friend of Ben’s.

After breakfast I made the kale bruschetta from “My Beef with Meat” by Rip Esselstyn and Clouds in the Sunset (roasted butternut and cauliflower soup) from to take to our Engine 2 gathering at Marlene and Eric Zeidman’s home. The walnut sauce for the bruschetta was super easy, very garlicky and delicious. I used Merstemacer sunflower seed bread for the toast and I will definitely make these again. They looked and tasted great and took very little time to make. The soup is one of our old stand by’s and I just love it. It makes the whole kitchen smell so wonderful as the butternut squash roasts. Edie made a wonderful pasta dish with broccoli and Marlene made a Mexican feast with corn tortillas, pico de gallo, guacamole, refried beans, rice and more! We had a laid back afternoon with a small group of our plant based friends and watched a great film, “Fat, sick, and nearly dead.” I hadn’t seen the movie in months and really enjoyed seeing it again. I would love to see a follow up of what the filmmaker ate after his 60 day juice fast. It sounded like he was planning to follow a whole foods plant based diet but they only touched on it briefly. Maybe in the sequel that’s coming up they will elaborate more on that. It’s just great to see people restored to health!

To top off a wonderful day, my daughter decided to come home this afternoon and we got to chat with she and her fiancee Rob. We feel so blessed to have such great kids who have such great people in their lives who love them!

Breakfast- Happy herbivore pancakes made with White Whole wheat flour and blueberries, fruit salad.

Late lunch- Corn tortillas with refried beans, pico de gallo, guacamole, onions, peppers, brown rice, kale bruschetta, roasted butternut and cauliflower soup, fresh watermelon, brown rice pasta with broccoli.

Snack- Air popped popcorn with balsamic vinegar and nutritional yeast.


Blueberry pancakes 2 Frosty fruit salad

plate  pasta Mexican  Fixins

Edie and Marlene

Marlene and Eric #4

Jean and Scott smiling

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Your genes are not your destiny, a message of hope!

Today one of my assignments for the course I’m taking from ECornell in plant based nutrition was to write a letter to a friend who is “worried because his/her mother and aunt both had cancer and s/he worries that s/he is destined for a cancer diagnosis too! S/he is considering scheduling an early detection precancerous screening next month. Your assignment is to share some encouraging information with her.” I wanted to share my letter with you and “Steve” is a fictional friend.

However, prior to writing this letter, I ran into a friend who has been diagnosed with cancer just recently. I was saddened to hear the news and thought of him as I wrote the letter. I did try to broach the topic of nutrition gently with him as I have read about research by Dean Ornish that was encouraging, but he changed the topic so I did not push. Just a short couple of years ago, I would not have been receptive to this information either, so I try to respect where people are in their journey to health. It is hard for me, as I can hardly restrain myself from sharing, but this information is not mainstream yet and people often think we speak of quackery. I am eternally grateful I have found the plant based lifestyle and only wish I had learned about the amazing health benefits sooner.

Here is my letter:

Dear Steve,

I can relate to your worry and fear about cancer and am sorry to hear of your mother and aunt’s illness.I had always assumed I would die an early death from cancer. After all, my mother died when I was in infant at age 38 of metastatic melanoma and it is a dominant trait in my family’s genetic makeup on my mother’s side, which means my children have a 50/50 chance of having melanoma. I had even considered not having any children because I did not want to pass this legacy on to them. Both of my sisters have had multiple melanomas and two of my cousins have died from the illness. Between my mother and father’s side of the family, there are 14 of us that we know of that have been affected. When I survived to the ripe old age of 50, I decided maybe it was time to rethink my health. I had survived 6 localized melanoma lesions and I was still on this earth. Maybe I really was going to live to retire and see my kids have kids of their own.  This may be part of why my mind and heart were open to changing my lifestyle to improve my health when I watched the documentary, “Forks over Knives” in November of 2012. I heard the message of hope ring through the entire film that our genes are not our destiny and that by simply eating a more nutritious diet, I might be able to change my fate.  I no longer feel doomed and that is what I would like to share with you.

Along with chemical, viruses, and excessive radiation from sunlight or radioactive substances that can initiate cancer, family history can also play a role. According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, “Family history implies the presence at birth of cells already initiated: that is, the genes have been mutated, implicating genetics as a cause of cancer” (Diet and Cancer I: Chemical Causes of Cancer, T. Colin Campbell, Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition Course Two: Diseases of Affluence).  Dr. Campbell and others have shown through their research that nutritional imbalances are the most significant cause of cancer, consuming nutrients above or below their optimum levels which promotes cancer growth. If one returns to eating these nutrients at optimum levels, the phase of cancer development called promotion where the mutated DNA that has been altered by a carcinogen causes cells to grow in clusters and eventually form tumors, can actually be halted and perhaps even reversed. According to Dr. Campbell, cancer may even be controlled by nutrition in the progression stage where the early clusters of precancerous cells grow into small and then larger tumors and are eventually diagnosed as cancer and may spread to invade tissues elsewhere in the body, better known as metastasis. Even though supporting evidence for controlling cancer through nutrition during the progression stage is less well developed according to Dr Campbell, it is none the less a cause for hope.

The other good news to me is that in order to help prevent my less than perfect genes from flipping the switch and causing promotion of tumors in my skin that can metastasize to my vital organs, I can make some simple changes in my diet. I don’t have to buy expensive supplements or medications. In fact, Dr. Campbell notes that “nutritional control of cancer should be considered within the context of food, not (within the context of ) supplements of individual nutrients” (Diet and Cancer I: Chemical Causes of Cancer, T. Colin Campbell, Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition Course Two: Diseases of Affluence).  Dr. Campbell did some very provocative research with mice that showed the effect of protein intake on tumor development that supports his idea that consuming nutrients at optimum levels can halt cancer growth. One of his studies fed four different levels of protein to mice and they followed the development of liver tumors in mice that were exposed to the Hepatitis B gene. Tumors emerged and developed in animals that ate a diet in which 20% of their calories came from protein, there was less tumor activity in the animals that were fed 12% protein, and the animals that were fed diets with 6% protein had no tumor growth. Dr.Campbell notes that the amount of protein required by humans is about the same amount as rodents, or about 10% of our diet and that most humans consume diets well in excess of the amount we need. Dr. Campbell’s research went further to show that even in groups of rodents given high doses of carcinogens, but then fed a low protein, or “optimum” diet, they grew fewer foci  or clusters of pre cancerous cells and tumors. In contrast, the animals that were given a low dose of carcinogen, but then fed a diet high in protein grew more foci and tumors.  It is exciting to me that despite the dose of carcinogen, the important factor in the tumor development was diet.  In addition to these findings, Dr. Campbell’s research also showed that animal based nutrients when fed in excess, tended to stimulate cancer and plant based nutrients tended to decrease tumor development (Diet and Cancer II: Initiation versus Promotion, T. Colin Campbell, Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition Course Two: Diseases of Affluence).

I hope that this information encourages you to educate yourself about how diet can influence your risk of developing cancer and gives you hope that your genes are not your destiny. I hope that you learn that you can make a difference in your own health by choosing what you put on the end of your fork. Eating a variety of nutrient dense foods provided by a whole foods plant based diet provides me with about 8-10% of healthy plant based protein, and gives me confidence that I am doing the best job that I can in keeping the switch turned off for cancer.

Please take care,


My sister Bonnie and I, plantstrong partners and melanoma survivors

My sister Bonnie and I, plantstrong partners and melanoma survivors





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Putting a bandaid on a gaping wound, nursing in America!

Nursing school graduation, 1985

Nursing school graduation                  1985

When I graduated from nursing school in 1985, I had big dreams. My birth mother had died when I was only a few months old from melanoma and my mother who raised me as her own suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis. Looking back she also had undiagnosed and untreated depression for many years. I hoped to really help people manage and overcome these awful illnesses and offer comfort where I could. I worked in the hospital setting for many years where most of our patients were in and out of the hospital for exacerbations of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, emphyesema,and congestive heart failure and I witnessed much suffering from strokes and cancers. Looking back, we did our best to patch people up, treat their symptoms with medications and treatments and send them home to do their best to care for themselves and manage their illness. There were people we got to know well as they were frequent visitors to our facility, coming in and out of the revolving door with acute flare ups of chronic illness. These patients were often labeled as non compliant as they would often stop medications that were prescribed to control their symptoms but had side effects that were difficult to bear or were too expensive.

When I transferred to home healthcare in 2003, I again hoped to make a difference as I could focus on patient teaching with one patient at a time. I now was able to get a better picture of why people had difficulty managing their illnesses. Some had little family support, some had limited education, and some were even illiterate and couldn’t read the instructions on their medications. Again, the cost of so many medications was an issue for some. For some, we could find strategies to overcome these obstacles, but for others, they continued to have frequent stays in the hospital, continuing to decline.

This is not to say that we don’t see success stories. We do care for people with acute and chronic illness who are able to learn to manage their medical problems, heal, and return to normal activity. I am constantly amazed by the resilience of our patients and families and am thrilled to hear their life stories. It helps us to remember that people are more than their disease state and had active and vibrant lives before they became sick.

Since my familiy and I learned about plant based eating and how it can help to prevent, improve, and even reverse many chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, it is hard for me to know this information and not share it with everyone I meet. The research is astounding and yet the mainstream medical community does not offer plant based nutrition as an option for patients. The work of physicians and researchers like Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr, and others is not known by the general public and if I can help to educate people in any way, that is my passion right now.

Even though the statistics around chronic illness and obesity in America are disheartening, I chose not to lose hope. I will talk to anyone who is interested in learning about how to empower themselves and improve their health through better nutrition and have found plant based community in our small town in Northeast PA and our small group is growing and is enthusiastic about the health benefits they have experienced.

I hope that in the future instead of blaming patients for failing traditional medical treatments, we will routinely be offering them the option of eating their way to a healthy mind and body without the worry of side effects, enormous cost and the complexity of managing multiple medications and instructions. I often feel that we are putting bandaids on gaping wounds as we try to treat the overwhelming rates of chronic illness in this country, but then I remember hearing Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell speak and become reinvigorated by their messages of hope which are contagious. They believe in the power of people to heal if we have faith that they can help themselves and we give them the tools they need.

If you have ever thought about plant based eating, but are not sure if it’s for you, try it for 3 or 4 weeks and see how you feel! There are so many tools available, including great books, free resources online, and wonderful recipes. Enlist a plant based buddy to join you, or find a group of like minded folks online to help you in your journey. More about building plant based community in a future post!